Komnas HAM and the democratic opposition’s contemptible position on the genocide in Aceh

PRD – May 26, 2003
Mass grave in Aceh (Acheh Times)
Mass grave in Aceh (Acheh Times)

[The following is a translation of a statement by an action delegation of the Central Leadership Committee of the People’s Democratic Party (KPP-PRD) which was presented to the National Human Right Commission (Komnas HAM).]

Why did Komnas HAM and the democratic opposition in Indonesia say nothing at all when the government of Megawati Sukarnoputri and Vice-president Hamzah Haz, with the support of the People’s Representative and Consultative Assemblies (DPR/MPR), launch the military operation Chapter II in Aceh? Why also didn’t Komnas HAM and the democratic opposition condemn the government as they condemned the US military aggression against Iraq? Where only recently 1 million members from the Islamic religious community defended the people of Iraq? Are the souls of the Acehnese people less noble than the people of Iraq? Why also was there no defense of the people of Aceh, no humanitarian coordination posts established for the Acehnese people, no coordination posts to receive complaints about human rights violations in Aceh?

Without thinking, we have taken a contemptible position masked by narrow minded nationalism, which is heading towards fascism which we despise. We have left the Mega-Hamzah government, with the support of the DPR and the MPR to send ordinary soldiers, who have children, wives and families, to be killed and to kill the people of Aceh in the name of safeguarding the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia. We have allowed this human tragedy to continue without control, letting the freedom of the press be buried, the democratic opposition groups who have defended the democratic rights of the Acehnese people be accused of being Free Aceh Movement (GAM) sympathisers, to be abducted, jailed, killed and terrorised. Worse still, there is now a tendency for all of the people of Aceh to be categorised as enemies of the state. Once again, what is the position of Komnas HAM and the democratic opposition in the light of these human rights violations?

Komnas HAM, which was formed with the intention of defending human rights, should have, from the start, protested the government’s decree which justified the military operation in Aceh. Komnas HAM should also have established communication posts to receive complaints about human rights violations in Aceh in order to control information which might threaten national unity.

Again and again the Mega-Hamzah government has failed to support the mandate of reformasi. This time their failure is proven by their inability to resolve the Aceh problem in a democratic and peaceful manner. Or their failure to interpret the roots of the problems of the Acehnese people. As a result, like their “uncles”, the US and Britain, who resolved the Iraqi problem though a military invasion, the Mega-Hamzah government who had previously pretended to condemn the US attack on Iraq, are also now using a military operation to stifle the demands for independence with have developed and broadened among the Acehnese people.

For us, the problem of the Acehnese people is caused by militarism. The emergence of nationalistic sentiment among the Acehnese people, who are demanding independence, must be seen as a form of “correction” in the face of a militaristic social and political system. Moreover, because of this, in whatever form the people’s resistance emerges, including in the form of an armed struggle such as that being waged by GAM, the state is the one who is responsible. The state must be blamed if the struggle which emerges is an armed struggle as in the case of GAM. There would have been no demands for independence by the Acehnese people, no armed struggle by GAM, if the government, who was in power in this country had acted justly and democratically towards its people. The militarism which was carried out by [former President] Suharto over 32 years has given birth to economic, political, social and cultural injustices in society. These injustices have triggered nationalistic sentiments in a number of regions, such as Aceh and West Papua. Therefore it is impossible to resolve the problems of the Acehnese people though a military approach, the source of the problems of the Acehnese people in the first place. Militarism is what has caused the spread of disintegration in Indonesia.

It is precisely the kind of military operation which is being carried out by the Mega-Hamzah government at the moment which will trigger the spread of nationalist sentiments among the Acehnese people, which can be seen directly from the regions which have been sealed off from observers, schools have been burnt down, housewives and young girls raped, people who are suspected of being GAM members arrested and terrorised. Civilian casualties will continue to fall without any of us knowing, without press control or control by the democratic opposition in Aceh. This military operation will only justify the views and position of GAM, who is campaigning broadly among the people that the people of Aceh are being colonised by Indonesia and the Javanese.

We truly desire the unity of the Indonesian people from Sabang to Marauke, as was struggled for by the founders of our nation, who were truly democratic, such as [Indonesia’s founding president Sukarno], [vice-president] Hatta, [prime minister] Sjahrir and so on. Moreover, not just for the unity of the Indonesian people alone, but the unity of all of the world’s people is needed in confronting colonialism by imperialist countries. But, the concept of unity which we are building is clearly different from the concept of unity which was used by the Suharto regime and the regime of Mega-Hamzah, one which plunders the wealth and natural resources [of the people] and which is safeguarded by armed force.

For us, unity must be build on the basis of people’s voluntary acceptance and consciousness. This voluntary acceptance and consciousness to unite will only be born if the government if capable of implementing economic and political policies which are just and democratic. If the government is also capable of holding a democratic dialogue with the people, to explain why being united is better than being separated. Wasn’t the 1928 Youth Pledge statement which untied youth from all parts of the Indonesian archipelago build based on democracy and voluntarism. Not a single drop of blood was spilt in the name of the unity build by the youth of that time, because they were democrats.

Since the period of [former President B.J.] Habibie, there has been no serous attempt to resolve the roots of the Aceh question. Moreover the present dialogue and negotiations which have been carried out by the Mega-Hamzah government have been mere lipstick, along with seeking an excuse to launch a military operation, this was their principle aim. Dialogue and negotiations which are not followed by justice to address the human rights crimes committed during the previous military operation [when Aceh was declared a military operation zone between 1990 and 1998], the withdrawal of all Indonesian troops and the creation of economic and political democracy (prosperity) for the people of Aceh, is the same as cheating the Acehnese people.

Therefore, for the PRD, two armed forces are now confronting each other. Violence against civilians will surely occur. It is already time to end the way of violence, and to surrender to the Acehnese people their democratic right to determine their own future though a referendum. The PRD is of the view that a referendum is the best means to resolve the Aceh question, peacefully and without bloodshed. This referendum can be implemented in two stages. In the first stage, the people of Aceh can choose the option of independence. In the second stage, which would be organised 15 year later, the Acehnese can evaluate whether the new government which leads them can or cannot resolve the problems which they face. It may be that in the second stage the people of Acehnese choose to re-join the Indonesian Republic, on the grounds that the new government not acting in a democratic fashion.

A this opportunity, the PRD also wants to announce plans to launch a class action against the President of the Republic of Indonesia, Megawati Sukarnoputri, Vice-President Hamzah Haz, the chairperson of the MPR Amien Rais, the chairperson of the DPR Akbar Tanjung and the military commander of the armed forces, Endriartono Sutarto for their part the military operation which is being conducted in Aceh, which certainly result in huge numbers of civilian casualties.

  • Overthrow and bring to justice Megawati Sukarnoputri, Hamzah Haz, Amien Rais, Akbar Tanjung and General Endriartono Sutarto as the perpetrators of the butchers of the Acehnese people!
  • Form a government of the poor!

Jakarta, May 26, 2003

Central Committee of the PRD

s/- Haris Rusly Moti, Chairperson
Natalia Scholastika Ch, Secretary General

[Translated by James Balowski.]